Sunday, April 03, 2011

Netflix Pick of the month: IRON GIANT

As a kid I used to love animated movies. Of course, in those days that primarily meant Disney… with the occasional full-length Mr. Magoo. That all changed when I had kids. After THE LITTLE MERMAID seemed to revive the genre there was a glut of animated features and I schlepped my kids to see many a RAINBOW BRIGHT and LAST UNICORN. They better not say bad things about me to their therapists EVER!!

Now it takes Pixar, great reviews, or the assurance that Jerry Seinfeld will not be involved to get me in to see a ninety-minute cartoon.

There is one animated film I always heard was great but never got around to seeing. (Okay, I’ll be honest, I never made the effort.) Recently “Ken’s Damn Friend” was praising it, even offering to lend me the DVD. I noticed it was on HBO this week so I set my Tivo. All I can say is “Wow!”

If you haven’t seen THE IRON GIANT you’ve got to check it out. Released in 1999 by Warner Brothers, it was directed by Brad Bird (of THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE fame) and is as smart, funny, and poignant as his other brilliant features.

Set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, paranoia, and bad black-and-white science fiction movie craze (scaring the shit out of kids for a total budget of $11.95 per film), THE IRON GIANT tells the deceptively simple story of a giant robot that lands on earth from outer space and is befriended by a little boy. It’s ET, meets SUPERMAN RETURNS meets THE TRANSFORMERS but without the treacle of the first, the Jesus theme of the second, and Michael Bay of the third. Along the way there are the usual great little Brad Bird attention-to-detail touches (like “Duck and Cover” films, the old Maypo cereal commercial, and the kid even looks like Howdy Doody).

You may be saying, “Well, if it’s so good why wasn’t it a big hit?” Because there’s something more frightening than Commies or aliens – the Warner Brothers marketing department. Instead of promoting this gem of a film, the WB marketing idiots put all their time, effort, and money into launching WILD WILD WEST (and we all know how terrific THAT film was).

THE IRON GIANT received a lot of awards, great reviews, even greater exit polls and quickly disappeared. Fortunately Brad Bird has been able to find other work.

IRON GIANT. It brings new meaning to “heavy metal”.

38 comments:

hst said...

I took my son to it when it was released (he was 9) and we both loved it and still talk about it. The "caffeine" scene is one that my son still recreates to this day. A wonderful film; thanks for reminding me of how much I enjoy it!

Steve Bryant said...

A fantastic film. I saw it in the theater when it was released. I was in my 40's and it thoroughly entertained me. I tried to convince the PTB at QVC to carry the DVD when it was released, along with other merch. Unfortunately, they were as enlightened as the WB marketing folks. But we sold a lot of pubic zirconia, the world's most magnificient pubic hair replacement.

Beth Ciotta said...

I own this one. It's been in my video collection for years. (Need to see about finding it on dvd). As you said, "...smart, funny, and poignant..." A true gem!

Sebastian said...

Finally!

Told you ages ago! :-)
Funny that the voice of the Giant is Vin Diesel, right?

Now you have to watch Titan A.E. next.

Roger Owen Green said...

one of the great films ever. not just animated films, either.

Blaze said...

Couldn't agree more. I loved this movie from the viewing in the theater. Every human I all but forced to view it had the same "How did I miss this??" reaction of Ken. It's a jewel in my video collection.

(I have to respectfully disagree with Sebastian. "Iron Giant" is two thumbs up while dancing a happy jig. "Titan A.E." is a shoulder shrug 'meh')

Mac said...

Yowza! Sounds like one to catch.
I'll now head off to iTunes and see if I've got any credit left.

Blitzen said...

This is my animation teacher's favourite animated film. I have it on VHS: a real gem.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

And all of you who don't like the repetetive songs of Randy Newman, should go and see Cat's Don't Dance. Not s great story, but there are a few suquences set to music which are great... as well as a couple of very good songs, such as Natalie Cole's love song and Randy's musical belter 'Make it loud".

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig McNamara said...

It was so unfairly ignored at the time. I still wonder, if you could convince Pixar to re-animate the exact same film in CGI, if it could finally become the huge hit it always should have been.

Deconstruction On Madison Avenue,
http://www.craigmcnamara.blogspot.com

The Other Matt B said...

What if a gun had a soul?

Couldn't agree more, Ken. Great, great, great movie. "Iron Giant" and "Searching for Bobby Fischer" have been in my collection for years and are two movies that are just a joy to show people who have never seen them before, or think that movies "for kids" should only be watched with children.

Charles H. Bryan said...

I'm a dude, and dudes aren't supposed to get all misty watching a movie.

But....

emily said...

Special edition DVD - 5.99 on Amazon.

crackblind said...

Now you have to check out My Neighbor Totoro and the rest of the Studio Ghibli stuff by Hayao Miyazaki. Trust me it is worth it!!!

This is the stuff John Lasseter aspires to make.

Janet T said...

it's right up there with The Brave Little Toaster- which puts it in my top 10 animated flicks- and porbably top 20 of all pics.

Ron Rettig said...

A hilarious flick set during Cuban Missile Crisis is "Matinee". John Goodman stars as a Roger Corman type with fake nurses screening theater goers to see they won't die watching movie, etc. etc. Schlock movie with nuclear mutant opens amid missile crisis hysteria in south Florida.

Ron Rettig said...

A hilarious flick set during Cuban Missile Crisis is "Matinee". John Goodman stars as a Roger Corman type with fake nurses screening theater goers to see they won't die watching movie, etc. etc. Schlock movie with nuclear mutant opens amid missile crisis hysteria in south Florida.

Ron said...

sorry for double post error :(

Charles H. Bryan said...

I'll second that vote for MATINEE.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Aniston's best movie.

Johnny Walker said...

If you don't at least have tears in your eyes at the end, you're a monster.

Damn that film is painful (in a very good way).

Johnny Walker said...

I second the vote the Japanese animation wizard, Miyazaki. Pixar's Lasseter (and almost undoubtably Bird) is a huge fan. He's the Kurosawa of animation.

Two words: Spirited Away. Beautiful and wonderful. (Sometimes you just need to force yourself to watch these things.)

Laurie A said...

My husband introduced Iron Giant to our family last year (he had seen it on HBO or Showtime or something ages ago). He thought our four year old would like it - he LOVED it. Now our three year old is fascinated by it as well. It's a great movie!

Derryl Murphy said...

I saw it in the cinema when it came out, and have owned the DVD since the day that was released. It was awful what Warner Brothers did. No surprise, though, because so many would have no idea what to do with such a smart film. You saw that Pete Townsend is listed as a producer on it?

I second the Miyazaki vote; he is our favorite in this house.

Janice said...

I liked this movie a lot, and I generally don't like animation movies; all the ones I've been dragged to lately have been vulgar, stupid, sentimental, dumbed down nothings. The Iron Giant is very different. It has a real story with a point to it. It also makes reference to the b&w sf movies I loved as a kid. I liked that one of the characters even looks like Ken Tobey :)

Svein said...

"Now you have to check out My Neighbor Totoro and the rest of the Studio Ghibli stuff by Hayao Miyazaki."
Second that!

InstaFlicka Podcast said...

I guess i will have to watch this. I keep re-watching UP, however, because it is one of the best animated movies ever created.

Morgan said...

The issue with the Box Office poor performance was that I believe it came out in the same weekend that The Sixth Sense stole the weekend & we all know how a poor first week taints a movies perception.

A fantastic movie though, my Daughter & I loved it when we watched it recently.

I have to add my vote for the Miyazaki catalogue.

Anonymous said...

The best Superman movie ever made.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

Add my vote to the Miyazaki catalog as well as Matinee. (Maybe you had to actually live through the Cuban Missle Crisis to really appreciate it.) And I loved The Iron Giant when I saw it in the theatre and was surprised how misty I was at the end. Great, great film. Thanks for bringing it to people's attention.

Anonymous said...

Vin Diesel's greatest role.

Jesse Jackson said...

"We are who we choose to be"

A wonderful film that certainly has one of the best Superman sequences ever done. Brad Bird is awesome. Excuse me, I need to go find a tissue.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

If I'm not mistaken, Iron Giant was one of the reasons why Brad Bird left The Simpsons.

I've yet to see Iron Giant myself. Looks terrific. And the movie seemed to deserve a far superior marketing push. I recall Warner promoted the hell out of Wild, Wild West, while Iron Giant never reached brazilian theaters. This is a DVD worth hunting for.

Sardine Mama said...

Great memories for me....we saw it in the theater (and later purchased it). I had 3 kids at the time, ages 7, 5, and 1. I remember having the hots for Dean, kind of ridiculous, really. We didn't have a chance - I was married and he was a cartoon. It could never have worked out. I felt less creepy about myself when I learned Dean was voiced by Harry Connick Jr -who doesn't have the hots for Harry? But seriously, how can you not dig a movie featuring a little kid named Hogarth?

cadavra said...

When you get to the Miyazakis, be sure to watch them with the Japanese tracks and subtitles. The English dubs are full of big-name stars whose recognizable voices not only take you right out of the story but sometimes alter a character's, er, character.

Andy Ross said...

I'm glad you like this film. It's one of my absolute favorites.

Exl Blogger said...

We loved The Iron Giant at our house. It was a surprisingly good film. Also, I'll add a vote for Matinee. It caught the nuclear paranoia of the early 60s so well. Surely, you've already watch out My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Porco Rosso. If you haven't see them.

(It's interesting how much Porco Rosso cribs from the WWII movie Spitfire.)